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FDA on e-cigs: We don't know if they are bad for you but we're going to regulate

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Today, April 24, 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will begin the regulation of electronic cigarettes even though the federal agency admits its does not know if electronic cigarettes are bad for consumers. E-cigarettes have become wildly popular in America, which has prompted the agency to study the battery-powered device further. The new regulation will add another layer of red tape for manufacturers as they will need to submit the ingredients in their e-cigarettes to the FDA and obtain approval before the liquid can be sold to consumers. While manufacturers are seeking FDA approval, their products can remain on the market for sale. In addition, the federal regulations would also mimic what the Florida legislature is likely to put into law, which would ban the sale of e-cigarettes to those under 18.

As opposed to traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes produce a vapor instead of smoke, making them more socially acceptable and according to many users, healthier. The e-cigarettes have also been credited for helping countless Americans to leave traditional smoke cigarettes. The devices mix nicotine, flavoring and other chemicals into the body without the smoke associated with burning tobacco. It is the 'other chemicals' which has the FDA concerned. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said, "This is an important moment for consumer protection." She also went on to characterize e-cigarettes stating that tobacco remains "the leading cause of death and disease in this country." E-cigarettes have never been linked to any deaths in America and the leading cause of death is heart disease. Although heart disease can be made worse by smoking traditional cigarettes, it is primarily caused by poor diet and exercise.

The FDA's website states, "E-cigarettes have not been fully studied so consumers currently don’t know the potential risks [if any] of e-cigarettes when used as intended, how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use, or if there are any benefits associated with using these products." The FDA has had over three years to study e-cigarettes and their affect on the human body and this is their conclusion.

The FDA currently regulates traditional smoke cigarettes as well as 'snuff' and traditional tobacco that consumers can roll on their own. Now the FDA is working to regulate high-end cigars, water pipes a/k/a hookahs and other tobacco products. The Center for Disease control's poison hotline receives approximately 200 calls a month nationally related to e-cigarettes. Nearly all of the calls are related to the rare incident of when the liquid nicotine escaped the device and came in contact with the user or someone close by. One known danger associated with the devices is in the rare incident the liquid nicotine escapes the e-cigarette's cylinder; it could result in acute nicotine toxicity from direct skin or eye exposure, ingestion, or inhalation.

The libertarian position on the new regulation would range anywhere from having the manufacturer disclose on the packaging what is in the liquid to coming out against any regulation of the industry. Some libertarians feel disclosure is the only regulation they will tolerate, and others would like to eliminate the FDA as a whole.

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